The month of Ramadan came to an end this week, and with it Muslims around the world began to celebrate Eid al Fitr.
“It’s almost similar to Thanksgiving,” said Potomac resident Bilal Ayyub, president of the Maryland Arab-American Committee.
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Muslim calendar. “Ramadan is the month when the Koran was revealed to the Prophet,” Ayyub said.
The Koran, the Muslim holy book, was recited to the Prophet Muhammad by the angel Gabriel over a period of 23 years.
Muslims who are physically able are obligated to fast, abstaining from food, drink and sex from sunrise to sunset during the month. “It’s supposed to be the month when people stay away from the physical needs of the body,” Ayyub said.
“Out of twelve months, one month is dedicated to purification of your soul and body,” said Tufail Ahmed, a Potomac resident. “On an average, people consider it a very holy month.”
Those who are not physically able to fast make it up each day either by fasting later in the year, or by giving enough to charity so that one needy person can eat for a day.
Ahmed explains that the holiday has shifted in recent times to accommodate modern situations, like working late. “Sometimes we have to break our fast in the office,” Ahmed said.
The fast is intended to allow people to focus on more spiritual matters and to show self-discipline. “That is, I think the minimal aspect. The whole aspect is what you mean to society,” said Aquilar Rahman, a Potomac resident. “It is not only the rituals that you do, but beyond that is what are you as a person?”
“For me it is a time of remembering the whole of society,” said Rahman.
Like many Muslims, Rahman uses the month as a time for personal reflection. “What have I done over the month or over the year to be a good person and to be a productive member of society.”
“You try to come closer to your creator,” Ahmed said.
Toward the end of the month, many pray a bit more intensely. Sometime during the end of the month of Ramadan falls the night of Laylat al Qadr. It is on this night, that Muslims believe the prophet Muhammad was taken to Jerusalem and ascended to Heaven.
Those who pray sincerely on this night are rewarded.
It is believed to have happened toward the end of the month. “The exact date is not known,” Ayyub said. Therefore, in order to ensure that the proper prayers are offered on the proper night, many choose to say the prayers on each night,
Ramadan ends when the crescent moon is sighted in the night sky. If it is a cloudy night, or the sky is otherwise obscured, Muslims may rely on other sightings, Ayyub said.
Once the crescent is sighted, the fasting ends, and the feasting begins. “It is the celebration of the end of abstention,” Ayyub said.
“There is a rejoicing that you can come back and be an eating and drinking man, again,” Ahmed said.
Eid al Fitr, sometimes called simply Eid, typically lasts for three days. “You celebrate Eid in the best possible way that you can,” Rahman said. “You’ll drop in on friends to say hello and to wish them well for the coming year.”
“It is very common that lots of people will visit their close families,” Ayyub said.
The modern world, where many people, like Ayyub, have families flung across the nation and the world, can make this part more difficult. “A lot of it is done by telephone calls,” Ayyub said.
The end of Ramadan does not mark the end of introspection. At the end of Ramadan, each Muslim is obliged to donate enough to charity so that one needy person can eat for a month. This obligation is applied to each member of a family, a family of four should give enough to feed a family of four, Ayyub said.
“We have the blessing to enjoy ourselves,” said Rahman. “But how have we used that blessing to help others.”